AFT Supports Expanding SNAP Options Act
This statement can be attributed to Tim Fink, AFT federal policy director.
American Farmland Trust (AFT) applauds Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) for the introduction of the Expanding SNAP Options Act which would open up new opportunities for direct market agricultural producers and local grocery stores while providing more choices for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients.
Although some states allow online grocery purchases with SNAP benefits, there is currently no national program, and states generally only work with large, national retailers. This limits the options of SNAP recipients and prevents smaller grocery stores and direct-to-consumer producers from serving this community.
The Expanding SNAP Options Act addresses this gap by requiring the Secretary of Agriculture to create an online payment portal which would allow an expanded list of eligible retailers nationwide to accept online SNAP payments. Within the bill, eligible retailers are small or local retailers, non-profits, and direct-to-market farmers. The Act would also provide retailers with access to a technical assistance center to help them accept these online transactions. This legislation would enable small retailers and farms to get additional business during this time of economic hardship without the need to invest in expensive private payment portals. It would also give many SNAP recipients increased access to local food that can be purchased without physically entering a storefront.
AFT is particularly pleased that the bill includes direct-to-market producers as eligible retailers. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been especially concerned with the welfare of these farms and ranches since so many rely heavily on farmers markets and restaurant sales which have been negatively impacted in recent months. Additionally, these producers frequently operate outside of the traditional farm safety net because of the diversity of products they grow, making them less likely to receive federal aid. To that end, in April, AFT launched the Farmer Relief Fund to help small and medium-sized direct-sales producers deal with the impacts of the pandemic. AFT also advocated for additional support on behalf of these producers within the CARES Act.
At a time when over 37 million Americans are receiving SNAP benefits, AFT believes that the Expanding SNAP Options Act could provide more opportunities for SNAP recipients, and help level the playing field for local businesses negatively impacted by the pandemic. We look forward to working with Congress and other stakeholders as this bill moves forward.